Windham Life & Times – August 20, 2015

Where Have All the Hurricanes Gone?

bella vista huricane

It is really strange how quiet the Atlantic and Caribbean have been recently during hurricane season. There is no question that weather goes through phases of activity and inactivity. These photographs show the damage at Bella Vista Beach after a hurricane that hit New England in the 1950’s. Hurricane season lasts from June 1st through November 30th so there is still plenty of time for storms to form and make landfall.

In a recent Washington Post article by Angela Fritz, about the quiet hurricane season , she says that, “…what’s interesting is that the area that we look to for the development of the strongest hurricanes — the main development region just north of the equator in the Atlantic Ocean — has been very, very quiet. Not a single storm has formed in this area so far this year. Nothing has even hinted at it. The lazy summer comes as no surprise to seasonal hurricane forecasters who all predicted a relatively inactive season before it began June 1. NOAA’s forecast in late May called for a 70 percent chance of a below-average season, with six to 11 named storms, three to six of which could become hurricanes, and up to two major hurricanes. It was the highest probability of a below-average season that NOAA had ever forecast.

High Wind Shear: “Wind shear is one of those things that can make or break a season. Even if everything else is working against hurricane formation — cooler than average ocean temperatures, few low-pressure waves — low wind shear could be the thing that tips the scales.  El Nino’s most direct impact on the Atlantic hurricane season is increased wind shear. Such is the case this year, which has been exhibiting record-breaking wind shear…Klotzbach found that just in the Caribbean, wind shear has reached record levels since the beginning of the satellite era, nearly double what it was in the epic El Nino year of 1997.”

Cooler than Average Ocean Temperatures: “Sea surface temperatures are the most straightforward way to determine if conditions in an ocean basin are conducive for hurricane development. At the very core of necessary conditions for hurricanes is warm ocean waters — generally 82 degrees or warmer — that serve as fuel for the storms to grow. So far this season, surface temperature in the tropical Atlantic has been running three to four degrees cooler than average, and the actual magnitude of the temperature is only marginally conducive to support hurricane formation, particularly in the main development region east of the Caribbean. Sea surface temperature is actually warmer in the Gulf of Mexico and off the east coast of Florida. Klotzbach says the month of June in the main development region was the second-coldest on record since 1900, relative to the rest of the tropics.” That’s funny, since the earth is experiencing catastrophic global warming.

High Pressure and Sinking Air: “Something that is closely related to the abnormally cool ocean temperatures is the pressure pattern between the Atlantic and the East Pacific. The East Pacific has been boiling over with record warm ocean water, fueling a record hurricane season there. That has led to a lot of hot, rising air west of Mexico and sinking air — or high pressure — over the Atlantic. If there’s a place that storms are unlikely to form, it’s in a region of high pressure and sinking air, over an abnormally cool surface, and forecasts are calling for a continuation of this pattern into the fall .”
Lots of Dust From the Sahara in Africa: “The final nail in the hurricane season thus far is the copious amounts of dust blowing west off the coast of Africa. It helps that there hasn’t been much rain in the region (say, in the form of a tropical storm) to rinse the dust out of the atmosphere. In general, Saharan dust over the Atlantic is not in itself sufficient to totally destroy a season, but it does serve as the dry, sandy icing on the anti-hurricane cake.”

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